Friday, April 06, 2007

In-Person Interviews

I have my first “big” interview coming up with a well known author who I’ll be profiling for an article. Most of my articles up to this point have only required me to track down a few sources for a quote or two over the phone. I haven’t conducted a lot of “in person” interviews. What’s the proper protocol? Do I take hard copy notes? Type on my laptop while we chat? Or can I simply lay a dictaphone on the table and just have a conversation without taking notes (then transcribe the tape recording later in my own time)?

Funny, in the day and age of email and phones, we writers rarely have to leave our offices to conduct nearly all of our work. Amazing, isn't it? I mean, if I'd decided to become a journalist twenty years ago, I'd have to trek to the library to do my research on microfiche!! Which means that in-person interviews are often a thing of rarity. I don't do them much either.

When I do do them, I tend to record the convo and take light notes. I dunno, this seems to help me jog my memory when going back and writing the article, as well as helps me filter through a long recorded conversation, as in, okay, she said this, and then she said that. Which helps when I'm looking for a specific nugget.

But I'm tossing this question back out to readers because I'm certain that there are some folks who do a lot more in-person interviews than I do. So folks, how do you conduct them? Tips for this reader?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Secrets to Success

Hey guys,

I'm guest-blogging at Writer Unboxed's one of my favorite posts all about the key ingredients, in my opinion, to becoming a published author.

Check it out!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Numbers Game for Queries

I'm starting to get more clips (it seems like a snowball effect) and I am landing a couple of magazine assignments each month, which inspires me to pitch more, etc. At some point of course I'd love to quit my 9-5 and be able to pay for my own health insurance. My question is, how did you transition to freelancing full-time and do you set a weekly goal for pitching magazine pieces - i.e. this week I'll pitch five stories - or any other tips you have on how to keep the snowball rolling, and growing.

I was in a very fortunate position in that I didn't really have a "full-time job" when I started freelancing. Rather, I'd co-launched an internet company that was eventually sold (sadly, after the internet bubble popped), and I retained a lot of our clients as freelance clients. So...I never really faced the "can I leave my current job" situation because I poached from my current well of work and kept working for them.

But, more to your point, I think a weekly goal is a must. In fact, one of my writer's groups frequently has Pitch Challenges, in which teams try to pitch as many places/editors as they can, and then score points for each story landed. If five a week works for you, and is bringing in steady work, then by all means, keep it up.

I think the hardest thing, in terms of volume, is coming up with new ideas. So don't forget that each idea doesn't have to be "new." It might be a spin on an idea that you're already pitching...or a spin on a story that you've already written. Whenever I'm interviewing an expert for a piece, I try to weed out some tangents or nuggets that might be used elsewhere - I often end up using only a small percentage of the actual interview for the first story, and why let all of that good info go to waste? Of course, it also helps to scour the web (and newspapers, etc) to stay on top of all the breaking research and trends. I've found that often times, even when I'm totally creatively-zapped, digging around some breaking news might help me muster up a gem of an idea.

So readers, how many pitches do you aim to shoot off each week? Is there a method to your madness?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Any Booksellers Out There?

I'm in the final stages of my pre-publication publicity push, and I've learned so much as I've gone through it, so I thought that in addition to answering questions on the blog, I'd also chat about what I'm doing publicity-wise, if you guys are interested in such things.

One of the critical things I've discovered is how invaluable booksellers are...the actual folks who toil at your local store or behind the counter at your nearby Barnes and Noble. Your marketing team can do a hell of a lot for you, but at the end of the day, the folks in the stores are the ones who have influence over buyers and can keep your book in front of readers for a longer period of time than you publisher might have anticipated in their co-op space purchases.

To that end, this week, I'm starting to head out to local stores to introduce myself, talk about the book, and hand out my few remaining galleys. We get the actual book in a few weeks, so once I've burned through the last of my galleys, I'll hand out books. It's an interesting process, and something that, until I was published, I'd never even though about. But check out this article from yesterday's NY Times: pounding the pavement really can help.

Obviously, I can only get to so many local stores, so if you're a bookseller or if you're pals with a bookseller who might be interested in reading a galley, shoot me a note. I only have a few left, but I'll drop one in the mail.

Writers: have you found that this one-on-one, personalized marketing has really helped? I'm curious to hear about how other people have done this in the past. And booksellers: do you truly take note when an author shows up and awkwardly mumbles an introduction? I'm a really outgoing person, but I feel a little self-conscious doing this!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Taking the Lead

I'm back! Vacation was wonderful, and yeah, I know that being in the sun is horrible for you (I do wear gobs of SPF, don't worry), but wow, isn't everyone just a little bit more attractive with a flush of color? It's true, I swear.

Question of the day: A novel question for you...if your publisher is making you a "lead title" what does that mean? I'm guessing it's good, but I'm not sure what it means in terms of what they actually do.

If your novel has been deemed the lead title, it's a very, very, very good thing. So if this is the case, huge congrats!

What this means it that your book will essentially be the star of your publisher's show: the one the sales reps push, the one the marketing team markets, the one onto which gobs of attention will be showered. For example,
Jon Clinch's Finn was recently his imprints lead title, and damn if you didn't see that book everywhere. (And deservedly so...Jon is a kick-ass guy, and while I haven't had a chance to read the book yet, the reviews were incredible.)

If you're the lead title, ask your agent directly what this means for you and how it will impact your PR, marketing and sales. But needless to say, it's a real vote of confidence from your publisher.

Anyone out there a lead title? Or have more specifics as to what this author can expect?